As I’ve mentioned, we got a new puppy — he’s an adorable five-month-old black cockapoo named Barnaby.
He’s sleeping at my feet right now. He has a special dark corner under my desk where he likes to hang out.
It took me a lot of hard thinking to decide whether or not to get a dog — you can listen to me talk about it with my sister here —and I’m so happy we did get a dog.
Beforehand, though, I was adamant that we would spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that he had very, very good doggy manners. Better for him, better for us.
But I must confess, as much as I love habits, and as much as I’ve studied how to form habits — after all, I wrote a whole book, Better Than Before, about the twenty-one strategies we can use to master our habits — I’ve fallen into three bad puppy habits. (I say “I” but these apply to my whole family, actually.)
1. I let him jump on the furniture.
Before we got him, I swore this would be an ironclad rule. But the thing about dogs and habits — you need to be consistent. And we’re just not consistent about not letting him jump up.
2. I don’t practice enough with various commands.
I do work on “touch,” but how long has it been since I worked on “stay” or “look?” My younger daughter is the best of all of us at keeping up with this. Related: when we’re walking, and I want to drag Barnaby away from that savory bit of trash on the ground, instead of using “touch,” or even more advanced, working on “leave it,” I just drag him away with the leash.
3. I let him jump on people to greet them..
It’s just so sweet to see how excited he is to say hello to people (though the puppy “excited urination” thing is a bit of a drag). And people want to say hello back. I feel like a killjoy when I try to get him to keep four paws on the ground. Even though I know that what’s cute when he’s a puppy may be far less cute when he’s fully grown, or if a person is scared of dogs, etc.
The fact is, dog-training is really people-training! Which I knew before we even got Barnaby.
We do have good habits, too, though. We never feed him from the table, and he almost never has “people” food at all. We keep regular hours for food, water, and walks, which I know is good for dogs.
But as much as I intellectually know about habits, and despite the dozens of books about dogs that I’ve read (you can see a short reading list here) , it’s just hard to stick with these things, every time. At least for my family. And I’m an Upholder.